Politics explained

Why is House speaker Nancy Pelosi, not president Joe Biden, visiting Taiwan?

When House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s US air force jet touched down at Taiwan’s Taipei Songshan airport, she became the highest-ranking American official to visit the island since Newt Gingrich in 1997.

In a Washington Post op-ed published just after she had landed, Pelosi said the trip is meant to demonstrate the US commitment to defence of the island, which is America’s eighth-largest trading partner and a major manufacturer of the semiconductors that power everything from iPhones to the Javelin anti-tank missiles being used against Russian forces in Ukraine.

But unlike other countries in the region with deep relationships with the US, such as Vietnam, South Korea, and Japan, Taiwan has only once hosted a visit by a US president, when then president Dwight Eisenhower travelled there in June 1960.


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